Furry friends offer vital boost for elderly, says Hunstanton care home boss
Residents of a seaside care home are among many who are benefiting from a form of animal therapy offered by a West Norfolk business.
Guinea pigs can help revitalise the lives of many elderly people, whether they are disabled, reside in assisted living complexes, are partially sighted or blind, or live with a mental health condition.
To some this may be a surprise, but residents’ eyes lit up at the Gorselands Care Home in Hunstanton when Diana Taylor, of Cuddly Cavies, arrived for her latest regular visit.
It has long been established that animal assisted therapy can play a vital role in helping to improve people’s quality of life.
Man’s - and woman’s - best friend, the dog, is perhaps the best example of that, although cats, rabbits and even horses among a variety of other animals have also been used.
But the popularity and effectiveness of Mrs Davies’ guinea pigs, which she takes into nearly 30 homes across West and North Norfolk, proves what a useful therapeutic aid they can be.
She said: “Everywhere I’ve been I’ve had 100 per cent re-booking.”
Mrs Taylor started her business five and a half years ago when she had to give up work to look after her son who has autism, which is one of the conditions recognised to benefit from pet-based therapy.
She said: “But I needed to do something that I thought it would also benefit him.”
That led to the start of Cuddly Cavies in Hampshire, where she then lived. Two years ago she moved to East Rudham.
Handling her docile guinea pigs - which are also known as cavies or piggies - prompts individuals to interact and talk to each other, provides mental stimulation and improves motor skills. Handling guinea pigs has also been proved to relieve stress and anxiety.
Mrs Taylor said her work gave her great satisfaction.
She said: “You get some amazing results. My visits make such a difference.
“I went into one place and spoke to a lady about guinea pigs and when I came out the carer said she had never heard her talk so much since arriving at the home.”
Gorselands care home manager, Sally Parton said Mrs Taylor’s visits had many benefits.
She said: “The smiles we get when the guinea pigs come in is immeasurable. Residents like holding them, stroking them and combing their hair.”
She added that any animals that come into the home provide a good stimulation for the residents.
Mrs Taylor added: “The more people that see us the more they will want to join the team and spread cuddles and squeaks around the country.
“All people that can benefit should have access to a service like ours.”